16 April 2015: Newsletter #16/15

Strong media attendance at opening ERC rounds

A total of 470 journalists, photographers, film makers and radio reporters have attended the opening three rounds of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, as the new-look Eurosport Events promoted series continues to grow in popularity.

233 media attended the Internationale Jännerrallye powered by GaGa Energy in January, with Austria’s major newspapers and sports magazines sending media to cover the opening round. 131 media came to Rally Liepāja in February, representing some of the biggest motorsport publications in Latvia, including Sporta Avīze and Latvijas Avīze, while Top Gear magazine published a special pre-rally supplement. International media in Latvia included Media Press and Rally & Race magazine from Poland, TuttoRally from Italy and the Estonian television channel, TV3. 106 media signed on at the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally in April, including a large number of regional newspapers, together with local and international motorsport publications. The event also attracted front page news in the main Belfast Telegraph newspaper, thanks to the eagerly- awaited appearance of glamour model Inessa Tushkanova!

ERC customers “primary” to ŠKODA Fabia R5’s brand success

ŠKODA unveiled its stunning new Fabia R5 this week, saying that customers like those in the FIA European Rally Championship are “primarily” to raising awareness of the brand though motorsport.

“The customer programme is an important business driver for ŠKODA Motorsport,” said its Motorsport Director, Michal Hrabánek. “The revenue helps to finance further development. But our customer programme is primarily a way of increasing the advertising presence of the entire brand. Hopefully, as with the Fabia Super 2000, with many sporting successes.”

The Fabia R5 was homologated on April 1 and replaces the Fabia S2000 as the Czech Republic car manufacturer’s new rally weapon. A Fabia S2000 has carried drivers to the last three ERC titles – Juho Hänninen (2012), Jan Kopecký (2013) and Esapekka Lappi (2014) – so there is every reason to believe that the Fabia R5 will be highly competitive in privateer hands, and that it will be a real performance car for customers on all ERC rounds in 2015 and beyond.

Tarabus thanks “best” Irish fans for his ERC result

Jaromír Tarabus has praised the Irish spectators for rescuing him on the Circuit of Ireland Rally, saying: “Irish fans are among the best in the world and are very good at rescuing crews!”

Co-driven by Daniel Trunkát, the rapid Czech driver thought his rally was over then he left the road on SS11 and got his ŠKODA Fabia S2000 stuck in a hedge.

“Right then the rally seemed over for us, but the wonderful spectators refused to accept our idea to withdrawal from the rally,” recalls Tarabus. “After two minutes of trying to pull us out, they got a rope and, after a lot of pulling, we were back on the road. It’s great that there were so many devoted fans and we would like to say a big THANK YOU to them. We think that Irish fans are among the best in the world and are very good at rescuing crews!”

Thanks to those fans, Tarabus finished eighth overall in Ireland and is now sixth after three rounds of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship. For finishing third privateer in Ireland, Tarabus also won 3,000 Euros, as part of Eurosport Events’ lucrative prize fund.

Martin impresses on ERC debut in Peugeot 208 T16

Charles Martin finished a very impressive fifth on the Circuit of Ireland – his first FIA European Rally Championship event in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16.

Co-driven by Thierry Salva, the 25-year old Frenchman started cautiously, but was soon posting top-five stage times – despite it being his first visit to Ireland and only his second outing in a four- wheel drive car.

“I took things cautiously,” said Martin. “I will need to simplify my pace note system but I’m beginning to get a good feel for the handling of the 208 T16 and I don’t think it will be long before I can start making more of its potential. It was a very complex rally with only two passes during recce, which was new for me, so I’m pleased with my result.”

Martin’s next ERC event is SATA Rallye Açores (4-6 June).

Three-way tie for ERC Ladies’ Trophy lead

Martina Daňhelová, Inessa Tushkanova and Ekaterina Stratieva are all tied for the lead of the ERC Ladies’ Trophy.

Daňhelová was first to lead after winning the opening Jännerrallye in her Renault Clio. Having won in Rally Liepāja, Tushkanova missed the chance of taking a clear lead after crashing her Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X on the Circuit of Ireland. Instead, reigning Ladies’ Trophy champion Stratieva took the win in Ireland in her Citroën C2 R2, to make it a three-way tie at the top after three rounds.

Q&A with Alexey Lukyanuk

On his first full Tarmac rally, Alexey Lukyanuk didn’t expect to even score FIA European Rally Championship points on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally. But not only did he score points, he finished sixth overall, moved up to third in the drivers’ standings and won 5,000 Euros in the ERC privateer prize fund.

We caught up with the Ford Fiesta R5 driver, to ask him about this surprise Irish result and his plans for the rest of the ERC season.

So, you didn’t have to be worried about scoring ERC points on the Circuit of Ireland after all?
“Yes, the result looks nice, doesn’t it? We were not expecting to be that fast after only being twelfth fastest on the Qualifying Stage. The start of the rally was not so easy for us, because it was wet, very slippery and there was a lot of mud, and we also broke a driveshaft on the second stage and lost one and a half minutes. In the end, the rally was long and tough. A lot of drivers made mistakes, others had technical problems and finally we finished in sixth place. It’s incredible.”

And you moved up in the ERC drivers’ standings. Was that a surprise?

“We scored championship points in Ireland, but what is better is that we moved to third position in the drivers’ standings, due to Robert Consani having problems. The championship is on the way and the main battle is, I believe, in front of us, because both Katjo [Kajetan Kajetanowicz] and Craig Breen showed their potential. They are extremely fast on Tarmac, but also fast on gravel. For me I can do good gravel rallies, but on Tarmac it is yet to come. We will see. I hope our success will help us find more support and to have more tests, because we are running only a few kilometres before each rally and of course it is then not so easy to get on the pace straight away as it should be at FIA European Rally Championship level. But we enjoyed the Circuit of Ireland a lot. Thanks to the organisers and to the public for their support. It is a very beautiful rally.”

What is your plan of attack for SATA Rallye Açores?

“The plan is to go to Açores. All the gravel rallies in the ERC calendar are priority, so we should be there. I have never been to Rallye Açores before. In fact, all the rallies, except Rally Liepāja and Rally Estonia, are new to us. We will try to do our best on all these new territories.”

Press enquiries: Paul Evans, media.fiaerc.com, +44 7710 743167 Television: Antonios Argyropoulos, fia_erc_accreditations@eurosport.com Drivers and teams: Jean-Baptiste Ley, jbley@eurosport.com​